The Minamata Convention is an international treaty that seeks to protect human health and the environment from human-caused emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. The Australian Government ratified the Convention on 7 December 2021.
The Commonwealth, state and territory governments share responsibility for administering the controls required by the Convention.
On 7 March 2022, the Recycling and Waste Reduction (Mandatory Product Stewardship—Mercury-added Products) Rules 2021 will come into force. They aim to reduce the risks to human health and our environment from mercury used in imported and manufactured products.
The Rules prohibit Australia from importing, exporting, and manufacturing the mercury-added products listed in Annex A, Part I of the Minamata Convention.
The incorporation of listed mercury-added products into other products is also prohibited.
- Batteries, except for button zinc silver oxide batteries with a mercury content <2% and button zinc air batteries with a mercury content <2%
- Switches and relays, except very high accuracy capacitance and loss measurement bridges and high frequency radio frequency switches and relays in monitoring and control instruments with a maximum mercury content of 20mg per bridge, switch or relay
- Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) for general lighting purposes that are ≤30 watts with a mercury content exceeding 5mg per lamp burner
- Linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs) for general lighting purposes:
- Triband phosphor <60 watts with a mercury content exceeding 5mg per lamp
- Halophosphate phosphor ≤40 watts with a mercury content exceeding 10mg per lamp
- High pressure mercury vapour lamps (HPMV) for general lighting purposes
- Mercury in cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps (CCFL and EEFL) for electronic displays:
- Short length (≤500mm) with mercury content exceeding 3.5mg per lamp
- Medium length (>500mm and ≤1500mm) with mercury content exceeding 5mg per lamp
- Long length (>1500mm) with mercury content exceeding 13mg per lamp
- Cosmetics (with mercury content above 1ppm), including skin lightening soaps and creams, and not including eye area cosmetics where mercury is used as a preservative and no effective and safe substitute preservatives are available
- Pesticides, biocides and topical antiseptics
- The following non-electronic measuring devices except non-electronic measuring devices installed in large-scale equipment or those used for high precision measurement, where no suitable mercury-free alternative is available:
Although these Rules are in place, there are some exemptions – refer to Section 4 of the Rules.
There are pre-existing regulatory controls for many mercury-containing products, which are not included in the Rules. This is because they are managed through other mechanisms. These products include (but are not limited to) therapeutic goods, drugs, food and pest control products.
If you are wanting to import, export or manufacture mercury or mercury-containing products in Australia, contact the relevant authority:
- Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
- Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme
- Therapeutic Goods Administration
- All other mercury-containing products.
Countries must phase-down the use of dental amalgam through two or more of the measures identified in Annex A, Part II of the Minamata Convention.
Australia already uses several measures from the Convention to phase-down the use of dental amalgam. Dentists and other leaders in this industry are encouraged to promote the use of best environmental practices in dental facilities to reduce and prevent the release of mercury and mercury compounds into the environment.
Mercury is released into the environment from light globes such as compact fluorescent lamps and fluorescent tubes, which often end up in landfill.
The Minamata Convention aims to eliminate this source of mercury pollution by prohibiting the manufacture and trade of certain light globes containing mercury.
By 7 March 2022, the import, export and manufacture of the following lighting products will be prohibited in Australia:
- compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) for general lighting purposes that are ≤30 watts with a mercury content exceeding 5mg per lamp burner
- linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs) for general lighting purposes:
- triband phosphor <60 watts with a mercury content exceeding 5mg per lamp;
- halophosphate phosphor ≤40 watts with a mercury content exceeding 10mg per lamp
- high pressure mercury vapour lamps (HPMV) for general lighting purposes
- mercury in cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps (CCFL and EEFL) for electronic displays:
- short length (≤500mm) with mercury content exceeding 3.5mg per lamp
- medium length (>500mm and ≤1500mm) with mercury content exceeding 5mg per lamp
- long length (>1500mm) with mercury content exceeding 13mg per lamp.
Disposal of light globes with mercury
There are different options available to dispose of light globes containing mercury, depending on where you live.
Some states offer council collection sites or arrange pick-up services for light globes.
There are also companies that offer disposal services for a fee and retailer take-back programs, to keep mercury out of the environment.
- Recycling near you – Use your postcode or region to find a lighting recycler
- Fluorocycle – Check the list of lighting recyclers and collectors in your region.
Industrial emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds
Countries must control mercury emissions (to the air) from specific types of facilities. They are listed in Annex D of the Convention and are:
- coal‐fired power plants
- coal-fired industrial boilers
- smelting and roasting processes used in the production of lead, zinc, copper, and industrial gold
- waste incineration facilities
- cement clinker production facilities.
Facilities opened after March 2027 in Australia must use ‘best available techniques and best environmental practices’ to control and, where feasible, reduce mercury emissions.
Relevant facilities must also control releases of mercury and mercury compounds to land and water.
State and territory governments have an important role in managing the emission, release and disposal of mercury and mercury compounds. Please contact the relevant environment authority in your state or territory if you have questions about how your facility needs to comply with the Minamata Convention.
Storage, disposal and waste
Mercury and mercury compounds must be stored in an environmentally sound manner. You are encouraged to comply with the relevant guidelines that have been developed under the Convention.
Managing mercury-containing waste in an environmentally sound manner includes recovering (recycling) mercury only for certain uses, and importing and exporting mercury under international rules such as the Basel Convention.
Recovered or recycled mercury cannot be used for the following purposes:
- to manufacture mercury-containing products listed in Annex A, Part I of the Minamata Convention
- in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
Technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of wastes consisting of, containing or contaminated with mercury are available.
Please direct any enquiries regarding mercury or the Minamata Convention to Minamata@awe.gov.au